Dr. Matt Williams (Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies) recently released a new DVD Bible study series titled The Forgiveness of Jesus (a DVD Bible study, in the Deeper Connections series). We were able to catch up with Dr. Williams to learn more about this exciting series:
Who is the intended audience of your videos?
Until recently, Bible scholars mostly wrote for other Bible scholars, rather than for the church. In creating these Bible studies, I wanted to take the knowledge that we Bible scholars know and deliver it directly to the church in a creative and understandable way. So, my audience is those in the church who are looking for a better understanding of the Bible, and how to apply to our own lives today. The series is taught by six Bible scholars who also can teach the material in an engaging way. We also taught these Bible studies in visually creative ways, in order to help us understand the text better. For example, Jesus accepts sinners is taught in a high school cafeteria, the parable of the prodigal son is taught in a canyon (similar terrain to Israel), etc. I have used these studies with success from Junior High age all the way up to adults in their 80s.
What gave you inspiration to do these videos?
The idea for these videos came from a student who came to me to ask what the best Bible study was. As I looked at about a dozen Bible studies, I learned that most of them do not study the Bible in-depth, and were written by people who were not trained in the Bible. I decided that afternoon to begin work on a new series of Bible studies, written by Bible teachers who could communicate deep Bible truths and applications that are easily understandable.
With the theme being forgiveness, how did you choose the biblical story for each video?
I tried to find a variety of biblical passages that best showed the compassion of Jesus towards individuals who struggle with various issues: greed, physical problems, relational issues, etc. As a result, we see modeled Jesus’s compassionate love and forgiveness to all sorts of problems that we today have.
How did you think of the historical insights?
For biblical scholars, the historical insights come as a result of years of studying the first century context. Most of what we teach in these studies is well known to Bible scholars—we are just sharing the fruit of our studies directly with the church. It is these historical insights that give added depth to the biblical stories, and create the ah-hah moments of excitement.
What made you decide to pick the theme of the videos to be forgiveness?
Surprisingly, I think that one of the biggest issues that my college students struggle with is accepting God’s forgiveness. Even though most of them grew up in the church, they think either that they need to earn God’s forgiveness or that they are “too bad” to be forgiven. Even those who feel like they are forgiven still struggle with carrying ongoing guilt and shame. I wanted to teach Jesus’s examples of forgiveness to show that the same Jesus that forgives a prodigal son, or a blind man, or even Peter who denied Jesus three times in his hour of need—this same Jesus joyfully forgives us today when we turn to him.
Do these videos only teach forgiveness, or are there other lessons to draw from them? If so, what are they?
These videos not only teach Jesus’s wonderful forgiveness, but also teach a few other important themes. For example, sometimes those who physical illnesses think that perhaps they are sick because of God’s punishment. Jesus’ healing of the man born blind shows us that this is not the case. Others feel that relational issues with other humans also means that God might not care for them. The calling of Matthew the hated tax collector shows us that God loves, accepts, and forgives in a way that is very different than human experience.
What will be the greatest benefit for someone to watch these videos?
My hope is that those who use the Forgiveness of Jesus Bible studies will know the true and deeper meaning of some of the most important texts about Jesus’s example of compassionate forgiveness. Many of us continue to struggle with sin and shame, and knowing how Jesus forgave when he walked on earth helps us to accept this forgiveness in our own lives today. Correct knowledge of the Bible leads us closer to our Lord.
In terms of feelings, it is my prayer that we will feel closer to Jesus and more in love with him as a result of these studies. I hope that we feel how utterly good Jesus is—in his coming to earth to teach, live, die and then resurrect from the dead—all for our benefit. He came to give us eternal life: a life that lasts forever, and a life that is filled of purpose, joy, peace, forgiveness and hope in these uncertain days.
What made you decide to add in teaching sessions in Israel to the beginning of each video?
The introductions from Israel help us to grasp the historical background very quickly, and adds to the understanding of the biblical text. To see that these are not make-believe stories, but real, true, historical accounts makes a big difference. Jesus really did walk on this earth, and we can look at the locations where he healed and forgave. These biblical stories are historically true, and this same Jesus meets us today with this same forgiveness!